FOXBORO - A long, detailed, well-written, behind-the-scenes look at Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels achieves two things.
The article, written for Bleacher Report by longtime NFL reporter Dan Pompei , investigates the growth of McDaniels as a person and coach since his ill-fated run as Denver Broncos head coach. And it serves as a de facto announcement of McDaniels’ suitability and availability as a head coaching candidate after 2016.
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McDaniels deserves the recognition and the second chance. Mistakes and miscalculations he made when he was 33 and 34 shouldn’t be a millstone for the rest of his coaching career. If second chances weren’t given to Bill Belichick, Mike Shanahan and Tony Dungy, they wouldn’t have combined for seven Super Bowl wins.
That Pompei got the go-ahead from McDaniels and Belichick to write this story now – complete with in-depth quotes from both of them and Tom Brady about McDaniels’ growth – shouldn’t be dismissed. It’s unusual for a piece like this to emerge in-season.
So why are we seeing it now? What should we infer?
First, that McDaniels – now 40 – wants the record on him updated. He takes a measure of blame for mismanaging the Jay Cutler situation in Denver ("I learned the hard way," he says. "We could have avoided that, no question."), he talks about the importance of delegating and about forging better relationships with players and assistants.
Second, having the record updated won’t hurt when the offseason vacancies emerge and that he’d like to be in the mix.
Third, Belichick speaking to Pompei is ostensibly an endorsement of McDaniels candidacy as well. From that, you can infer that Belichick appreciates McDaniels’ work, is willing to help McDaniels realize McDaniels’ coaching goals, does not have immediate plans to step aside himself (as McDaniels inferred on the radio this week) and probably has a succession plan in place. Brian Daboll, who – McDaniels noted in the story – prepared a third-down scouting report, would be the likely successor.
That anecdote was an interesting one:
Not long ago, Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll was assigned to put together a third-down scouting report. Daboll came up with a new way of presenting it. He ran it by McDaniels first. It gave McDaniels pause. In the past, he would have told him to redo it the way that McDaniels was most comfortable. But he knew Daboll felt good about the report and had worked hard on it.
Green light given.
"As much as we are on the same staff, we don't all think the same," McDaniels says. "That's OK. Before, I might have been frustrated with that. Now I feel that's a healthy thing."
Last season, McDaniels passed on interviewing for head-coaching positions. There were options, he just didn’t take any. Part of that, no doubt, had to do with the head coach-front office-ownership stability that seemed to be lacking in many of the opportunities that arose.
This offseason, with former Patriots’ executives Bob Quinn in Detroit and Jon Robinson in Tennessee, the landscape could be more comfortable if those positions open up.
Full disclosure, I think McDaniels is a talented coach and the first three games of 2016 should have teams looking to make a switch on high alert. He deserves and will get his next shot. Pompei’s feature indicates the time is approaching.